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Society for American Archaeology

Review
Author(s): William T. Sanders
Review by: William T. Sanders
Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Apr., 1956), pp. 436-437
Published by: Society for American Archaeology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/277343
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436

AMERICAN ANTIQUITY

article and Thompson by 2 popular books. Spinden's


Study of Maya Art is listed but little used while certain
works cited in the text are not listed at all.
To the author's credit are his stressing of the occasional presence of the feathered serpent motif in Classic
Maya art, though his choice of examples will be criticized; his inclusion of many original photographs particularly of Yucatecan sculptured facades; and his possibly
accurate identification of certain serpentine motifs
which had previously been neglected. His book is an
interesting addition to both the literature of Maya
symbolism and the more theoretical and speculative
type of thinking on the "Quetzalcoatl problem."
H. B. NICHOLSON
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.
Magic Books from Mexico. C. A. BURLAND. King Penguin Books, No. 64, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth,
1953. 31 pp., 1 fig., 16 pls. $0.95.
As we read on the jacket, "never before have the
works described in these pages been introduced to the
general public. . ." In addition the excellency of the
color reproductions of pages and figures from Mexican
codices make this little book a valuable and useful contribution. The codices represented are: Telleriano,
Vaticanus 3773, Rios, Magliabecchi, Borgia, FejervaryMayer, Cospio, Laud, Vindobonensis, and Zouche-Nuttall.
Burland distinguishes between historical codices and
"poetic and semi-religious ones." He assigns the Mixtec
codices to the former group and the Borgia Codex to
the latter. However, he considers that the other books
in the Borgia group, the Vaticanus 3773 and the Aubin
Tonalamatl, "deal with the complexities of fortune-telling" and that they "have a certain horrid fascination
that comes from their association with witchcraft."
Such an emphasis on black magic is questionable; to
treat the codices as no more than the books of fortune
tellers gives a distorted picture of Mexican religion.
Moreover, in a popular work of this kind, such an
approach should be substantiated by a simple outline
of the functioning of the tonalpohualli and its relation
to the principal deities of the Mexican pantheon.
The plates which illustrate the importance of black
magic and fortune-telling include 3 of Tezcatlipoca and
5 of other Lords of the 13 days and of the cardinal
points. The other plates represent the ceremony of
making the sun rise, Quetzalcoatl and the giving of his
power, the dedication of the great temple, birth of the
Mixtec people, 8 Deer, and the 4 fortunes of maize.
Burland's notes on the post-Columbian codices are
taken from the Spanish annotations on the documents;
he follows Seler's methods in explaining the prehispanic
ones. In each case he has added a certain amount of
general information. Both his introduction and his
notes are entertainingly written. However, his versions
of the creation myth and the migration legend are
rather strange mixtures.

[ XXI, 4, 1956

Burland tries to convey a general picture of Mexican


culture despite the fact that his choice of plates stems
primarily from his interpretation of the codices as books
of black magic. Probably no 2 persons would agree on
which 16 plates to include if confronted with the task
Burland undertook. His approach is both personal and
novel.
BARBRO
DAHLGREN
DEJORDAN
Escuela Nacional de Antropologia
Mexico, D.F.
La Venta, Tabasco. A Study of Olmec Ceramics and
Art. PHILIP DRUCKER. Special sections by Waldo R.
Wedel and Anna 0. Shephard. Bureau of American
Ethnology, Bulletin 153, Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, 1952. x+257 pp., 64 figs., 66 pls. $1.25.
This publication is the third of a series of meticulous
archaeological studies on the southern Gulf Plain of
Mesoamerica by Drucker. His work represents a standard rarely achieved in Mesoamerica and this new study
is no exception. Drucker's definition of the Olmec art
style is the best that the reviewer has seen. It is much
sharper and clearer than any previous one and provides
the reader with a useful tool for testing the geographical
and chronological distribution of Olmec art.
Ceramic description and analysis form the nucleus
of the book; the major problems are chronological,
especially the placing of La Venta with relation to the
previously established Olmec cultural sequence of Tres
Zapotes. The excavations indicate clearly that La Venta
falls entirely within a single period of the 3-period
sequence of Tres Zapotes. Ceramic types, figurine styles,
and stone sculptural style all indicate that La Venta
equates with the Middle Tres Zapotes period which
Drucker considers Early Classic. He suggests using "La
Venta Period" for this phase of Olmec cultural history.
The most controversial part of the study is his review
of the chronological relationship of the Middle Tres
Zapotes period to other Mesoamerican regional sequences. He discusses relationships with Peten, Guatemala Highlands, south Pacific Coast of Guatemala,
Yucatan, central Vera Cruz, Oaxaca, and central Mexican Highlands. One of the difficulties in establishing
areal relationships is the fact that southern Vera Cruzwestern Tabasco seems to have been bypassed by the
major Mesoamerican trade routes and to have been
culturally isolated throughout the Early Classic. Trade
pottery is rarely found. The culture seems to have
developed locally and in isolation. For example Teotihuacan 3 influence which spread so widely throughout
Mesoamerica, seems to have missed this area completely. Drucker suggests that the Olmec kept and further developed a basically Preclassic culture into the
Classic period, whereas in other Mesoamerican regions
this culture type was absorbed and lost in the great
fluorescence of regional Classic cultures.
His assignment of Middle Tres Zapotes as Early Classic is based on the criteria set forth in his Tres Zapotes
report. Early Tres Zapotes shows generalized ceramic

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REVIEWS

437

relationship to Mamon-Chicanel; Upper Tres Zapotes Yucatan. Data are rapidly accumulating to suggest that
in the Lowland areas of Mesoamerica true urban centers
has highly specific relationships to Teotihuacan 4. He
and nucleated settlements were rare.
argues, therefore, that Middle Tres Zapotes must be
Early Classic. Wauchope, on the other hand, dates at
WILLIAM T. SANDERS
least part of this period as Preclassic on typological
Harvard University
grounds, a dating which involves dangerous assumpCambridge, Mass.
tions. The reviewer discovered a site in the upper
Tonala drainage with typical Middle Tres Zapotes potCurrent Reports, Numbers 1-24. Edited by H. E. D.
tery and classic baby-face figurines in association with
POLLOCK.
Carnegie Institution of Washington, DepartLate Classic Maya figurines of the Jaina type. The
ment of Archaeology, Cambridge, 1952-55. Issued in
Olmec art style and probably the ceramic types as well,
parts. Illus.
evidently enjoyed a huge time span in at least part of
This series, under the editorship of H. E. D. Pollock,
the Olmec area.
is devoted essentially to the Carnegie Institution's recent
Drucker finds that with the exception of the Mexican
work at the late Postclassic site of Mayapan in Yucatan.
Highlands the often discussed extensive diffusion of the
Designed to disseminate the data and results of each
Olmec art style to other areas is of the generic type
season's work as rapidly as possible, its tone is prelimand, thus, very difficult to assess chronologically. He
inary, factual, illustrative, and specialized. Each paper,
rejects outright many published examples of the style.
offset printed and issued separately, represents the reEspecially important is his rejection of pieces from
sults of a single project. Jones's highly detailed map
Monte Alban and Highland Guatemala. He considers
(Report No. 1) of the walled city is essential to an
the concept of the Olmec as a Mesoamerican "Cultura understanding of the pattern of excavations so far unMadre" unacceptable. Rather, he views the Olmec as dertaken. The titles of these reports plainly illustrate
one of many vigorous regional styles in Mesoamerica,
the Institution's interests. Much time has been spent
one which had its roots in the Preclassic, reached
on distinguishing between lay and ceremonial structures
and on archaeological analyses of their variations and
fluorescence during the Early Classic, and was replaced
functions. Inasmuch as the site consists of over 4000
by highland cultures in Late Classic and Postclassic
buildings and platforms, this has been an enormous
times.
undertaking. House mounds and property boundary
The relationship between Tlatilco and La Venta, is a
walls
have been studied with great care because of their
most difficult problem for there are stylistic relationships
crucial role in urban analysis. Interest has also centered
of a very specific nature. Drucker feels that the style
on Tabasco, the apparent source of an important potrepresented by the Tlatilco figurines is closest to Middle
tery found at Mayapan. Many sites in Quintana Roo
Tres Zapotes. The chronological position of Tlatilco in
have been visited and excavated in an attempt to clarify
the Valley of Mexico is certainly Preclassic, but Middle
the late period of Yucatecan prehistory on as broad a
Tres Zapotes is Early Classic. Drucker postulates 2
scale as possible. Further work at Chichen Itza and
possibilities: (1) Since the Valley was culturally back- various Puuc sites has been oriented
to sequential and
ward, Middle Tres Zapotes is in part Preclassic -an
cultural problems encountered at Mayapan.
which
be
can
worked both ways; (2) Olmec
argument
To date 24 reports have been issued: 1, Map of the
plastic style actually fluoresced in the Early Tres Zapotes
Ruins of Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico by Morris R. Jones;
period which is still incompletely defined. In support 2, The Great Wall of Mayapan by Edwin M. Shook;
of the first possibility he emphasizes the marginal loca3, Residential Property Walls at Mayapan by William
tion of the Valley. This is hardly a tenable position.
R. Bullard, Jr.; 4, Excavations in House Mounds at
Moreover, this solution to the problem of Olmec-TlaMayapan by Karl Ruppert and A. L. Smith; 5, Cenote
tilco relationships means rejection of Teotihuacan 3 as X-Coton at Mayapan by Robert E. Smith; 6, Chacchob,
Yucatan by H. E. D. Pollock and Gustav Str6msvik;
a chronological marker. A third possibility is that the
7, Archaeological Reconnaissance in Tabasco by Heinstyle developed in an area of tropical fauna in Morelos
rich Berlin; 8, A Portal Vault and Temple at Mayapan
and southern Puebla and diffused to the Valley and
southern Vera Cruz where it reached secondary cli- by Str6msvik; 9, Some Small Ceremonial Structures of
maxes. In the homeland and in the Valley it was early Mayapan by Robert M. Adams, Jr.; 10, Excavations in
House Mounds at Mayapan: II by A. L. Smith and
replaced by Regional Classic cultures, whereas in the
Ruppert; 11, The X-Coton Temples at Mayapan by
coastal area it persisted into the Classic.
12, Cenote Exploration at Mayapan and TelShook;
One of the interesting by-products of Drucker's cechaquillo by R. E. Smith; 13, Boundary Walls and
ramic testing is the data on settlement pattern. He
House Lots at Mayapan by Bullard; 14, Three Temples
points out that the long time range and the uneven,
and their Associated Structures at Mayapan by Shook;
sparse distribution of sherds indicate that La Venta was
15, The Northern Terminus of the Principal Sacbe at
not a town but a ceremonial center with a small resiMayapan by Pollock; 16, A Round Temple at Mayapan,
dent population. The reviewer found a similar pattern
Yucatan by Shook; 17, Excavations in House Mounds at
in the Middle Grijalva basin and on the East Coast of
Mayapan: 11 by Ruppert and A. L. Smith; 18, Explora-

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